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How Estonia becomes a trendsetter in the new forestry and timber industry

In the land of unicorns, everything can be high-tech. Estonian companies use AI to measure and track timber and produce high-quality industrial materials from wood waste.

In Estonia, where half the country is covered by trees, the forest has always been the poor man’s coat. At the same time, Estonian companies are demonstrating that they can become global trendsetters and standard makers in the forestry and timber industries by operating locally and using their expertise.

Timbeter creates transparent and efficient forestry

How to increase transparency, traceability and efficiency in the forest and timber industry? To do this, you need to create an app on a smart device that can measure log stacks in the shortest possible time anywhere in the world.

Timbeter uses artificial intelligence to measure timber, both round and sawn and helps track its origin and movement throughout the supply chain. The company has customers in more than 40 countries, including forest industry corporations, private forest owners and state forests. Timbeter’s solution allows very fast measurement of the amount of material in a given stack or truck, and the data can always be checked.

“This ensures reliability and transparency between the parties involved, which means that even a small private forest owner can get a fair price for his material. Also, better decisions can be made regarding the valorisation of the material and the planning of logistics,” says Anna-Greta Tsahkna, CEO of Timbeter.

Anna-Greta Tsahkna (on the right)

The company also attaches importance to the safety of work processes. As measurements can be taken from a distance with a smart device, this helps to reduce accidents. Digital capability allows things to be done faster, better and paperless. In developing the service, Timbeter is working with universities around the world, which are turning to them to teach a new generation of foresters how to use new technologies.

According to Tsahkna, development is a continuous process where every effort must be made to ensure that the solution can cope with harsh weather conditions or exotic species. For example, students doing research compare different data and constantly confirm to the company that the application is very accurate. Timbeter’s trump cards are innovative and global reach, with more than two million measurements now taken by different users around the world.

As one of the foundations of the green revolution is digitalisation, the data collected will allow for better resource valorisation, less waste and optimised logistics to reduce the carbon footprint. “Unfortunately, illegal activities in the forest industry are a very big problem, as timber is often counterfeited and imported from protected areas. We opened an office in Brazil last year and are working with two states to check logs and detect counterfeiting,” says Tsahkna.

Fibenol takes the sustainable industry to a new level

Can you imagine a future where fossil fuels are replaced by wood-derived chemicals and high environmental impact roadworks become carbon neutral? These are the global ambitions of Fibenol, which started as a spin-off company.

Today, Fibenol has grown into a world-leading production and development company in the bioeconomy sector. Their vision is to move down the path of industrial de-fossilisation, using low-quality wood or biomass as raw material, which is unsuitable for the sawmill and furniture industries.

The chosen technology input is hardwood, with a focus on birch, which mostly goes into plywood, pulp, paper or energy wood. “We’re trying to give birch another on-site refining option, specifically for lower-grade birch used for energy, and, in the future, we’d like to do the same with alder. We produce lignin, pulp and sugars from the wood, offering them as inputs to industries, and we are the world’s most sustainable supplier of raw materials in this model,” says Peep Pitk, Fibenol’s head of development and research.

Fibenol factory in Imavere

Sugars can be used in a wide range of applications, from the fermentation industry to building materials, for example, as a binder in glass wool. In the context of its first industrial plant, Fibenol wants to move a step further up the value chain. This means that the company will ferment sugars into intermediate products, or speciality chemicals, which can be sold with even greater added value to a much wider network in the chemical and materials industries.

One example of a rapidly implemented change is the carbon-neutral asphalting project around the Imavere pilot plant, which used a combination of Fibenol lignin LIGNOVA and biofuels instead of diesel. According to Pitk, one ton of lignin can replace 15 tons of bitumen, the dirtiest residue from the oil industry. He hopes that in the future, bitumen and other fossil feedstocks will be replaced by bio-based raw materials and that lignin, which Pitk calls “young oil grown in wood”, has a big opportunity here.

Fibenol collaborates with up to 100 universities and research and development institutions and 300-400 companies worldwide to deliver its global innovation. Pitk considers it a trump card that today, Fibenol is the first in the world to have scaled-up technology, with pre-processing in operation and with product quality that allows it to move on to the production of biomaterials and chemicals (sugars, lignin product LIGNOVA™ and microcrystalline special cellulose). In addition to technology innovation, Fibenol also leads the implementation of transparent accounting of the carbon footprint of industrial value chains and, more broadly, the promotion of a sustainable industry model.

Interested in opportunities in the timber industry in Estonia? Read more here or send us a request for 1:1 e-Consulting.

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